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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Fashion philanthropy

How designers are giving back

Published: January 18, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

At first glance, the fashion industry may appear to be a world entangled completely in materialism, and merchandise sold strictly for the purposes of a customers’ instant gratification. However, many of the most successful fashion designers serve as supportive donors towards important societal causes.

Designers are often awarded by companies, such as the Accessories Council for their accomplishments in the fashion industry. More importantly, theses leaders in the fashion industry are often honored also for their charitable work with organizations such as Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl, and causes such as the fight against AIDS.

Fashion designers represent a large percent of the business world’s most successful individuals; however, their philanthropic contributions are truly what brings them great respect and dignity from society at large.

The Gap is one of the leading chain clothing stores in the United States, along with its sister stores Banana Republic and Old Navy. The Gap and Old Navy have traditionally catered to the middle class individuals, whereas Banana Republic serves a generally more upper class individual. Over the years The Gap has adopted trendier styles, rather than its traditional, solid-colored clothing. Because of this sudden change, The Gap has become more popular, and now serves a wider and more diverse range of people. As a result, prices have been marked up and the customers’ demand is rising. The Gap saw its success as an opportunity to contribute to society.

Recently, The Gap has designed a clothing line called Gap (Product) Red. The Gap contributes 50 percent of the profits from this particular line of clothing to the global fund which ultimately will help women and children affected by AIDS in Africa. The Gap has publicized in stores, as well as on their website ( the idea that Gap (Product) Red is about “helping you make a difference.” This mission statement is a clear-cut way of allowing customers to feel proactive in contributing to society. Customers at The Gap will no longer be purchasing clothing strictly for their own instant gratification, but for the purposes of indirectly saving another individual’s life.

Elie Tahari, a top fashion designer, lauded at the 2007 Accessories Council Excellence (ACE) awards for his talents and accomplishments. The ACE awards are sponsored by the Accessories Council, a company which represents and publicizes a majority of designers that have mastered accessories lines. The annual ACE awards, the most recent of which took place on November 5, 2007, honor journalists, designers and celebrities for their talents and accomplishments. Some of the honorees from this past year were Tory Burch and Heidi Klum, as well as the department store Lord and Taylor.

Elie Tahari designs high end handbags and shoes for women. Tahari’s clothing and accessories combine a unique fashionable style but in a uniquely classy manner. This master of the fashion industry is not only notable for his work in the art of design; however, he is also recognized as a humble individual who contributes a significant amount of money to causes.

An example of this is Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl (CCOC) is an outstanding organization which raises money to remove children from Chernobyl who are currently suffering from the affects of a nuclear disaster which took place in 1986. Over the course of the past twenty two years cancer rates and birth defects skyrocketed in Russia and as a result respectable individuals have taken a course of action.

Four years after the nuclear disaster the Lubacitche Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson , stood up for the unfortunate children who could neither physically nor financially stand for themselves. As a result he called upon a group of his students to establish CCOC.

CCOC hosts an annual gala dinner at Pier Sixty in New York City to both promote awareness of the situation in Chernobyl, as well as to raise money to help remove the children suffering from the effects of the disaster and fly them to a settlement called K’var Chabad in Israel. The gala dinner event is an extravagant evening particularly because the money is raised with the help of celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, John Voight and Michael Douglas, as well as companies such as American Eagle and LeSportsac, and fashion designers obviously including Elie Tahari.

American Eagle, a popular and trendy clothing store, has custom designed sweatshirts and bags with CCOC’s logo “Children at Heart” which are donated each year to be given to each individual that attends the gala dinner.

The fashion industry has always consisted of successful leaders in our nation’s market. Their success may seem instantaneous because of the extravagant price mark ups on apparel and accessories; however, many of these individuals are key contributors to the changes being made to better society and the world at large.